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Abel Hankins Civil War Bio

                                                        ABEL HANKINS

On April 2, 1844, Abel Hankins was born into a pioneer family in Virginia. His grandfather had moved to Tazewell County in 1773 or 1774 and was one of the founders of a Baptist church in an area that became known, and is still known, as Baptist Valley. Abel's father, James Hankins, was born in 1815 and married Elizabeth "Betsy" Quicksall. Abel was the third of their ten children. On April 12, 1861 , General Beauregard's Confederate cannon fired on Fort Sumter in the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina. On May 29th of that year, Jonathan, the oldest of the Hankins children was enrolled.as a Sergeant in Virginia's 45th Infantry. A year later, on May 20, 1862, eighteen-yearold Abel was enrolled for three years as a 1st Sergeant in the Virginia militia. Jonathan, reportedly deserted from the 45th Infantry on July 3, 1862, but was later instrumental in recruiting a cavalry company known as Hankins' Company of Otis Caldwell's Battalion with Jonathan as Captain. On January 15, 1863, at Camp Zirkle near Salem, Virginia, four companies of Caldwell's Battalion were consolidated with six companies of Milton Ferguson's Battalion to form the 16th Virginia Cavalry with Hankins' Company designated as Company C. The "truly Confederate" Hankins family "supplied a father, five sons, and other relatives to Company C." Included were Private James Hankins and his sons - "Jonathan Hankins, the captain of Co. C; Abel, who was orderly sergeant; Thomas, a private who was captured; Robert Mitchell, a private buried at the Camp Chase Cemetery in Ohio; and Moses, also a private." Records indicate that the regiment saw action on the "east cavalry field" at Gettysburg in July 1863 and then, while helping to protect the left flank of the army, withdrew to the south with other Southern regiments. On July 17th of that month, Abel and one of his comrades were admitted as patients to a private hospital in Virginia. Two weeks later they were released with the regiment's Surgeon saying they had gone to a private hospital on orders of the Colonel since "there was no General Hospital convenient." The hospital was paid for "fifteen days at one dollar per day each." The regiment next participated in battles at Droop Mountain, West Virginia, in November 1863, Cloyd's Mountain, Virginia, in May 1864, Monocacy Junction, Maryland, in July 1864, and Moorefield, West Virginia, in August 1864. It can't be confirmed if Abel was present when the battles occurred, but his brother Robert was captured at Moorefield. He was imprisoned at Antheneum Prison and later transferred to Camp Chase in Ohio where he died of pneumonia six months after his capture. In August, 1864, Abel was detached from the regiment and "sent with disabled horses to Monroe." He was ordered back to the regiment on November 30th, but was still absent when the year ended. While Robert had died, Jonathan, Moses, Abel, Thomas and their father survived the war and returned to Tazewell County. James died at sixty-nine years of age. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are buried in Hankins Cemetery, Baptist Valley, as are Jonathan who died in 1894 at age fifty-three, Madison who was too young to serve in the war, and several other family members. Thomas also stayed in Tazewell County where he is buried in Maplewood Cemetery, but others moved west. It was not unusual for soldiers to find new homes after returning from the war. Jim Bethard had served in Iowa's 21st Infantry. While Jim was gone, his wife (Caroline) and three-year-old daughter (Nellie) had moved with Caroline's parents from Clayton County to Keokuk County where they settled in Sigourney. Jim joined them after his discharge in July, 1865, worked as a farmer and laborer and, in 1880, served as a town councilman. In October of 1865, Abel Hankins married Julia Gillespie in Tazewell County where four children- Sadie, William (1868), James (1871) and Lucy (1873)-were born. In 1874, "in a wagon that was of his own make, he made every part of it himself," Abel and his fa.'11ily moved to Keokuk County where they settled in the town of Delta, another daughter, Mary Ellen (1875) ,was born, and Abel opened "Hankins & Sons, City Blacksmyth Shop." Julia died the following year and was buried in Delta's Bethel Cemetery. On November 5, 1876, Abel married Sarah (Randall) Payton whose first husband had died eleven years earlier. Abel and Sarah had one child, Thomas, who was born in 1877. Seven miles away, Jim and Caroline Bethard continued to live in Sigourney where they had three more children. After Caroline's death in 1889, Jim moved to Delta where he met Abel Hankins and, when his health forced him to give up farming, worked as a harnessmaker at Abel's blacksmith shop. By then Abel had become a Justice of the Peace in Delta. As a former Confederate soldier, he wasn't eligible for a federal pension but notarized affidavits and pension applications of Northern soldiers including Jim Bethard and one of his comrades, Alvin Merriam. When Jim died in 1912, the Delta Press reported his burial: "A few years ago A. Hankins, who was a confederate soldier, asked James Bethard if he would see that a flag was placed over his grave when he died. Mr. Bethard said he would provided Mr. Hankins would perform a like service for him should he survive him, and so the pact was formed. After Mr. Bethard's death last week, Mr. Hankins accompanied by C. F. Kendall, went to the grave yard where the wearer of the grey placed the flag on the northern soldier's grave." In addition to running his blacksmith shop with two of his sons and serving as a Justice of the Peace, Abel was a longtime member of the Methodist Episcopal Church where he served as a Trustee, Steward and Board member. When he died on August 28, 1914, the minister noted "that regardless of the weather that pew over yonder was always occupied by Mr. Hankins." Abel was "highly respected," "held many offices of trust and honor" and was: "laid to his last resting place with all the honors the G.A.R. post of the town of Delta could bestow. During the fifty years of his residence in Delta Abe Hankins demonstrated to everyone that even though he may have been wrong in following the flag of his state, he was a splendid citizen and exemplary christian gentleman." His burial, the paper said, "was an act that proves to all of us that patriotism and love exist." "Whatever differences of the sixties there may have been, they have all vanished before the heroic and God-fearing life which he lived in our midst and the service which he rendered for those about him. " Abel and Sarah, who died in 1916, are buried in Delta's Bethel Cemetery.

Charlottesville Civil War Round Table
Charlottesville Civil War Round Table
Charlottesville Civil War Round Table
Charlottesville Civil War Round Table

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